| Then and now: Priyanka Chopra
Winner takes all in beauty battle
Priyanka Chopra was last week named Best Actress at the IIFA awards in Macao, which all goes to show the dividing line between success and failure can be disconcertingly thin.
Who, for example, remembers Miss Italy, Giorgia Palmas, 18, and Miss Turkey, 20-year-old Yuksel Ak, who were placed second and third respectively when Priyanka beat 95 contestants to win the Miss World title in London on November 30, 2000?
Even I had to look them up and I was there.
An executive of Zee Television, which was sponsoring the show that year, was not amused by my prediction that Priyanka would win.
Was I suggesting the show was fixed, he asked.
I wasnt, though I discovered afterwards that the designer Hemant Trevedi, who was advising Priyanka on what she should wear, also happened to be one of the judges.
Priyanka could so easily have been disqualified when she told Jerry Springer, the shows compere, that the greatest living person she admired was Mother Teresa, who had passed away three years previously.
The next morning when I met Priyanka, she was remarkably poised for an 18-year-old.
We go into Bollywood because the only platform which can match up to the fame as Miss World or Miss Universe is Bollywood, she told me.
Interviewing Priyanka alongside me was a pretty radio reporter from London by the name of Sophie Choudhry, with hidden Bollywood ambitions of her own.
In hindsight, 2000, when Lara Dutta won Miss Universe, was a vintage year for Indian girls.
Parvathy Omanakuttan, whom I interviewed in Cannes last month, is a stunning girl but making it in Bollywood would have been easier for her had she won Miss World in South Africa last year she came second.
Amid all the gloom and doom caused by Indias early ouster from the Twenty20 World Cup, Piyush Chawlas debut at Sussex should provide some cheer.
Did you know he has taken six wickets today for 52, to add to the 5 for 118 he took in the first innings against Somerset, says Mark Robinson, the professional cricket manager for Sussex, when I call him.
Robinson has recruited the 20-year-old Indian spinner as his temporary overseas player until the Pakistan medium-pacer Yasir Arafat returns at the end of the month.
Within two days of arriving from India, Piyush played against Worcester, took 2 for 89 in the first innings and 6 for 152 in the second and then, coming in at number nine for his sides only innings, scored an unbeaten 102 in 86 balls with seven fours and six sixes.
If Arafat is required for Pakistans tour of Sri Lanka, PC may be invited to stay longer at Sussex, Robinson tells me: Weve been impressed. He doesnt bowl many bad balls.
Sussex welcomes different cultures, he adds.
Maybe the spirit of Prince Ranji still hovers over Sussex, for whom he distinguished himself from 1895 to 1920.
| New beginning: Lord and Lady Rana with Dr Ian Paisley and his wife, Baroness Paisley
My apologies to Lady Rana whom I inadvertently referred to as Lady Poddar following her marriage last weekend in Belfast to Lord Rana, a businessman and Hon. Consul for India in Northern Ireland.
Lady Rana tells me she was born Shruti Poddar into the Arya Samaj in Calcutta, attended Modern High School, went to college in Delhi, but returned to live in the city of her birth as Shruti Jhunjhunwala after her first marriage.
In all, I have lived in Calcutta for 25 years, says Lady Rana, who shortened her name some years ago to just Ms Shruti.
In her new life, Lady Rana, a mathematician by education, will continue many of the activities set up by her Shruti Foundation in India. She has made CDs of Vedic chanting, been a devotee of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry for 40 years, been a director of the Heritage Studies Institute in Punjab and started a journal, Sutra the thread, aimed at ensuring all education has an indigenous element.
She also wants to push the idea of Indias soft power.
She has taken to the House of Lords: Even when they want to abuse one another, they do it wonderfully.
Game, Sett, Match
| Howzzat! Sujata Sett with generation next
Srenik and Sujata Sett, who work in advertising in Calcutta, last week showed their half hour cricket documentary, Hum Sab Ek Hain: An Indian Affair, at the Nehru Centre in London.
Commissioned by the public diplomacy division of the ministry of external affairs, the film is aimed at showing how cricket unites India. The honours were done by Ajit Wadekar and K. Srikkanth.
Sreniks book, Miracle at Lords, a pictorial account of Indias momentous world cup victory in 1983, was on sale.
Sujata went and sat with two little boys who had brought a ball and a bat to be autographed. Perhaps they will learn the most important lesson of all not to boo the other side at Lords or anywhere else if your own loses.
Getting his goat
Why goats? I ask the Maharajah of Baroda Ranjitsinh Gaekwad, 71, who has a new series of fine line drawings of goats plus fibre glass sculptures of the animals (£3,000 each or £20,000 for a herd of eight) currently on exhibition at Indar Pasricha Fine Arts in London.
| Art of the matter: Maharajah Ranjitsinh Gaekwad
It is a subject given to me by the gallery, laughs the Maharajah, who has been a full time artist since he went to the faculty of fine arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda at the age of 16.
Ranjitsinh became head of the family following the death of his eldest brother, Fatehsinh, aged 59, 1989.
Curiously, he does not much care for Raja Ravi Varma, the great 19th century artist who gave human form to figures from Hindu mythology (as depicted in the yet to be released Nandana Sen-starrer, Rang Rasiya). We have 40 of his paintings but I am not a great admirer of his work.
Instead, Ranjitsinh, who spent three and a half years at the Royal Academy in London he hopes to take in the Summer Exhibition while he is in London says his favourite are the Impressionists, especially the works of Monet.
As a keen musician, he sings in the style of the local gharana, called the Kirana, and also follows Test cricket Twenty20 I dont consider cricket, its terrible, its like prostituting the game for money.
He lives in Laxmi Vilas Palace (the most beautiful structure in India) and appears to be passing on his love of art to his granddaughter, Padmaja, who is allowed into his studio, and given paint and large pieces of paper.
He smiles affectionately: She draws quite well for a two-and-a-half-year-old.
James Hughes-Onslow, journalist from the London Evening Standard diary who had had red wine flung at him for questioning whether Mangal Kapoor was entitled to call himself a Prince, tells me the aggressor broke the rules of wine throwing.
It was not done face to face but poured on his head from behind.
Neither very British nor very princely, he observes caustically.